The Pros and Cons of Telemedicine

Posted on January 18, 2016 by Shapiro Law Group

Modern telecommunications technology has created several breakthroughs in health care, such as telemedicine. Telemedicine is the practice of using the internet, webcams and screens to connect patients to doctors. For people living in rural areas far away from hospitals or patients with busy work schedules, telemedicine can be extremely useful. However, hospitals and patients should be aware of the pros and cons of telemedicine.

The Pros of Telemedicine

Ease of Access: Telemedicine is convenient for both patients and doctors. Depending on what the doctor’s visit is for, telemedicine can be quick and easy for both parties. For example, if a patient is following up on a diagnosis or asking questions about a medication. Telemedicine can be used almost everywhere. Ophthalmologists are using telemedicine in third world countries to diagnose retinopathy of prematurity, an ocular condition that affects premature babies.

Remote Patient Monitoring: Doctors can monitor blood pressure and other vital signs without being in close proximity to patients.

Cheap: Telemedicine is cheap. The inexpensiveness of telemedicine allows almost any hospital to use the practice. Compared to an MRI machine or other hospital equipment, monitors, webcams and an internet connection cost very little.

The Cons of Telemedicine

Misdiagnosis: Misdiagnosis is a danger of using telemedicine. Doctors cannot touch patients. For example, if a patient is seeking medical care for night sweats and weight loss, a doctor might check for swollen lymph nodes. This is difficult while using telemedicine.

Poor Connection: Bad weather or internet service provider outages can interrupt telemedicine sessions. Doctors must be able to hear patients speak without being cut off.

Regulations: Depending on the state, some doctors may run afoul of HIPPA guidelines by using telemedicine. Privacy is a major concern, as internet connections can be co-opted by third parties.

Depending on what telemedicine is used for, there may be more pros than cons. For example, telemedicine is great for follow-ups and questions, but might not offer the same benefits for doctors who need to perform physical examinations.

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